Supernatural North

By Ritson, Darren W.

From the publisher’s website: The Supernatural North is the latest in a long line of books by Darren W Ritson. This exciting new volume details scores of the most terrifying ghost tales and supernatural legends that the north of England has to offer. From the Scottish Borders to South Yorkshire, from the North West Coast to the North East Coast, this book is sure to delight all ghost enthusiasts.

Featured in this volume is a full chapter devoted to the South Shields Poltergeist case which the author co-investigated with Mike Hallowell in 2006. A large section of the book is also dedicated to the north of England’s most famous haunting, Willington Mill, along with various other chapters detailing spine chilling ghosts and blood curdling hauntings from the North Country. There is also a fascinating and detailed look at the north’s screaming skull legends.

Places visited in the book number into their hundreds and include theatres, castles, public houses, hotels, stately homes, public parks and even a lighthouse or two. With a lengthily foreword by Peter Underwood FRSA – acknowledged as the world’s leading ghost hunter, The Supernatural North promises to be one of the finest ghost books you will ever read.

Amberley Publishing, January 2010. ISBN 9781848682771

Reviewed for the SPR by: Tom Ruffles

After writing about paranormal Newcastle and the North-East, Darren W Ritson throws his net wider still to encompass the entire North of England.  This is a substantial book, though the author acknowledges he can only skim the surface, and he writes about his passion with an engaging style.

The book is clearly laid out, with separate chapters on different locations, some based on secondary sources, others containing cases which Ritson has investigated personally.  The format is a travel guide, working from the east (Newcastle upon Tyne) to the west (Chester) with a miscellaneous chapter rounding up various properties, and another on screaming skulls.  He is a native of Newcastle, and his enthusiasm for the area is infectious.  After Newcastle he considers North Tyneside, where he now lives, and includes extracts from the SPR’s Journal from December 1892 on ‘The Haunted House at Willington’.

He devotes a chapter to the South Shields Poltergeist, beginning with an emotional outpouring which indicates just how hurtful he has found the personal attacks on his and co-author Mike Hallowell’s probity.  This sense of anger continues in the chapter on Preston Hall Museum, Stockton on Tees, where he and Hallowell gave a talk on the case.  The brief overview is a useful taster for their book The South Shields Poltergeist: One Family’s Fight Against an Invisible Intruder, subject of a review by Alan Murdie in the April 2010 issue of the SPR’s Journal.

Other places visited include sites in County Durham, Berwick upon Tweed, Yorkshire and Lancashire.  The choice is selective, and as is the case with this type of volume, many of the stories he recounts are not subjected to close scrutiny.  There is too some repetition from his earlier books which is surprising given the number of properties he might have included.  But Ritson is a genial companion as he travels about the region.  Peppered among the ghost stories are autobiographical snippets, including the startling information that in his younger days he was a dancer on a television show.

These Amberley books are all of a uniform, and reasonable, price.  Ritson’s is very good value at 202 pages, but it is apparent that one way of holding down the costs, apart from failing to provide an index in any of these books, is by skimping on copy editing.  A quick read-through of the manuscript would have ironed out the grammatical errors.  But it’s a rattling read, with plenty of name checks for the SPR.